The Fourth of July holiday box office was dominated by Universal's "Despicable 2," which did just under half of the total business for the top 10 films for Wednesday (its opening day) and Thursday. Box office boomed for one of the best summer boosts above last year so far. The two-day take was around $130 million. The roughly $60 million total for Independence Day -- an uneven holiday with all the competing activities -- was record level, and in terms of total attendance (after adjusting for ticket price increases and surcharges) the best since 2007 (which saw the release of the first "Transformers").
Sequel "Despicable 2" grossed $59.5 million for two days (Wednesday at $35 million) and with 18 new international territories added Wednesday to the nine that had already opened, the movie boasts a worldwide total of $134.5 million. The movie could be the second biggest release of the year (behind Disney's "Iron Man 3") with a potential take approaching $1 billion. Following hit "Fast & Furious 6," Universal is very very happy.
While it contributed to the overall record total, "Disney's "The Lone Ranger" is potentially the biggest flop of the summer. Although it went up slightly on Thursday, and its gross is above average for a #2 July 4 film, its $19.5 million total is disastrous for its estimated $400 million ($250 million production plus $150 marketing) budget unless it experiences hardly any falloff in upcoming weeks and/or has an international multiple far more than double its domestic take (unlikely for a Western, even more so for an unfamiliar decades-old American icon).
Considering not only Disney's financial investment but also the involvement of two past franchise-film guarantors (Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski, who worked together on three of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films), this is a major disappointment for all involved. The apparent failure goes beyond just the possible immediate financial loss, but also the premature demise of a potential series of films and all the usual ancillary use the company makes in its other businesses. It also shows the risks in placing so much of an investment in a single project that needs to gross $600 million or more worldwide in order to be considered successful. Disney's three major hits this year -- "Oz: The Great and Powerful" and "Monsters University" along with "Iron Man 3" -- will have to mitigate the sting.
Another Wednesday opener, comedy concert film "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" (Lionsgate), opened at fewer than 900 theaters. It placed fifth for the two days with about $7.4 million ($4.8 million of that on Wednesday). An inexpensive production (most of its cost coming from marketing), it already has almost reached Hart's earlier "Laugh at My Pain" total in its surprising release by independent Codeblack Entertainment.
Among holdovers, "The Heat" (20th Century-Fox) beat out "Monsters University" (Buena Vista) for the #3 two-day position, with the latter clearly showing the impact of "Despicable Me 2." "The Heat" grossed $11.6 for a first-week total of $61 million. "Monsters" did $10.6 million for $196 million in two weeks. Sony's troubled "White House Down" had the biggest percentage increase on Thursday from Wednesday ($3.5 million, up from $2.7), placing it behind Paramount's "World War Z" ($8.2 million for two days). "White House" had a successful promotion of allowing military personnel and veterans in for free (100,000 took advantage of the offer, bringing other paying customers along with them). Sony hopes this boosts positive word of mouth and gives the struggling $200 million+ project a chance to hang on. "Man of Steel" added another $5.4 million for the two days, now nearing $260 million as it struggles to keep apace with newer films.